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Environmental consultant David Letteney has spent the past two years investigating how football clubs can improve their green credentials. Here, he outlines just a few cost-effective ways to adopt a more sustainable approach
Football clubs are joining other businesses in looking for ways to reduce their environmental footprint while cutting recurring costs. The following examples show how some clubs are doing that while demonstrating to their supporters and their community that they are good neighbours and are helping to preserve the health of the planet.
In 2009, Manchester United FC reported that it saved more than £200,000 working with the Carbon Trust and instituting energy-reduction methods. Although not all clubs can expect such savings, research shows that any club can benefit from energy audits and implementation of green measures.
In 2010, E.ON energy published a series of advertisements in the London Guardian stating that audits on amateur football clubs revealed that inexpensive changes could save as much as £1,000 a year. The E.ON study noted how low-cost changes such as adding timers to chillers (so they do not run 24/7) and washing football kits at lower temperatures could result in significant reductions in recurring expenses. Venues such as Lord’s Cricket Ground and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff have used smart meters to monitor and lower their energy costs. Upgrading lighting fixtures to save on energy and maintenance costs have saved money for Tottenham Hotspurs FC, as well as for the Millennium Stadium. Rochdale FC and Aston Villa FC, meanwhile, have employed light sensors to reduce energy usage and Coventry City FC has installed a voltage optimiser to regulate their incoming electricity and cut costs.
Another cost-free way to save energy is to reduce high power usage of the stadium floodlights. One club cuts costs by turning down the floodlights during warm ups and immediately after the match with no discernible impact on the supporters experience.
Encouraging public transportation
One inescapable fact is that supporter travel plays a large part in a club’s carbon emissions. However, a club can reduce this at minimal cost and at the same time benefit its supporters. Combi tickets – or match-day tickets including public transport – were introduced successfully on a large scale at the 2008 European Championships. At a local level, Brighton & Hove Albion FC, Southhampton FC and Lincoln FC are among the clubs that offer this option to their fans. Dartford FC and Doncaster FC help reduce car travel by giving reduced parking fees and special parking privileges to supporters who car pool. Installing or expanding bike racks at stadiums is also a low-cost way to encourage alternative transport and is under way at Lord’s, Chelsea FC, and on the south coast at Brighton FC.
Other stadiums such as such as Oldham Athletic FC and the Irish Aviva Stadium have encouraged their supporters to utilize public transportation to match venues through leaflets and information on their websites. Watford FC took this a step further by successfully lobbying for the Croxley Rail Link to be built for easier access to their stadium.
With water shortages becoming a concern, football clubs are being challenged to conserve community water supplies. Some of the simpler methods are to use water-efficient taps and showers such as those installed at Arsenal FC, Exeter United FC and Sheffield United FC. Installing waterless or water-reduced urinals can save thousands of litres of water per match and are in use at Arsenal FC, Leyton Orient FC, MK Dons FC and the 2012 Olympic Lee Valley White Water Centre. Rainwater harvesting by means of artificial lakes or pipes underneath pitches for irrigation is another option in use at many clubs and stadiums including Chelsea FC, Dartford FC, Ipswich Town FC, Colchester FC, and the Millennium Stadium.
Despite some failures with outfitting wind turbines at Manchester City FC and on the 2012 London Olympic grounds, renewable energy in different forms can be a practical option. On a large scale, Stade de Suisse in Bern and Kaohsiun National Stadium in Taiwan have shown that the installation of solar panels can not only generate enough electricity for a stadium’s needs but also provide surplus energy for its community.
On a smaller scale, Dartford FC has installed solar panels to heat their hot water, while Leyton Orient FC employs solar panels on its community building and the Forest Green Rovers generate a part of their energy needs with solar panels on their stadium.
Without installing new infrastructure, Lord’s Cricket Ground, Arsenal FC, and Forest Green Rovers FC have ensured that their stadiums are powered in part by renewable energy through switching to a green tariff offered by most energy companies.
New stadiums: a golden opportunity for cost-efficient energy savings
A new stadium is often a supporter’s and a club’s dream but it does not have to cost the earth. Brighton FC’s new stadium exceeded many of the environmental and energy requirements to make it more energy efficient and earth friendly than most. Dartford FC utilised similar technologies and received help from their local council in using recycled materials for greener construction of its stadium. One of the most significant implementations of green construction is the Olympic Stadium, which took the use of recycled cement and metals to new levels in the preparation of land and its construction.
Environmental policies and environmental mitigations
Putting an environmental policy in writing costs little, helps the club connect with supporters, and demonstrates that the club wants to minimize its community environmental impact, and yet surprisingly few do it. In England’s Premier League, for example, a handful of clubs have a written an environmental policy. Manchester City FC’s, one of the more detailed, includes an estimation of carbon emissions and some steps it is taking to mitigate them. With the technical and financial help from E.ON, Ipswich Town FC went further by calculating the club’s emissions and getting supporter carbon emission offsets to achieve a carbon-neutral season.
About the author
David Letteney is a freelance environmental consultant who specialises in environment and English football. He is currently a member of the British association for sport and sustainability and an associate member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. To contact him, please email email@example.com
Technical information and assistance
• The London Green 500 Club is an organisation formed to help London businesses reduce costs and carbon emissions. Currently Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC are members. Click here
• The 10:10 initiative was designed to help organizations reduce their carbon emissions by at least 10%. Tottenham Hotspurs FC, Stoke City FC, and Bristol City FC are members. Click here
• The Environment Agency is currently working with the English Football League Trust in sharing best practices and giving practical advice to football clubs interested in making greener choices. Click here
Funding and financial advice
• The Carbon Trust offers energy surveys and low interest loans for carbon reduction projects. Click here
• Envirowise is a UK government funded initiative which offers environmental consultations to businesses. Click here
• OFGEM is an UK government agency which offers information on renewable energy and feed in tariffs. Click here